The Mid-Continent Public Library deserves credit rather than grief for scheduling programs such as “Trans 101.”
The program, led by a transgender person discussing basic information about transgender life, has been held at a few branches at the request of library users. The library is responding to an expressed need in the community – people at times struggling to find their way and often finding little support around them or even outright hostility.
This program has become the focus of a bit of a controversy. Some, including an MCPL board member, have pushed back at the idea of talking about these issues at all in a public setting.
But the library rightly points out that ensuring everyone’s right to access the information they seek is at the core of its mission. That freedom should be beyond dispute.
The library has heard it from many voices on this issue. One of the system’s own trustees wrote a letter saying, “A once safe community setting known as the public library has become a space that, in the guise of intellectual freedom, wants to change thinking on voyeurism and gender confusion …”
That pejorative language is inaccurate and demeaning. It’s not the library’s job to pursue any particular agenda, and officials have made that clear. The library board has rightly made clear that the board member who wrote those words, Rita Wiese of Platte County, does not speak for the board.
Other voices have come from the LGBTQ community and allies, who point out that they too pay taxes to support our good libraries and deserve to have their voices heard.
The program’s presenter, Riley Long of Kansas City, put it simply: “I shouldn’t have to continue to defend my life from people who don’t understand.”
American society has shifted significantly in its views on LGBTQ issues, but the idea that people can be talked out of their identity – talked into renouncing who they are – persists. That is deeply harmful. The American Medical Association states that what it calls “sexual orientation change efforts” don’t work and often lead to problems that include depression, anxiety, isolation and even the risk of suicide.
How many people in our community – in any community – are living with that today? That’s hard to know. How many deserve straight answers to their questions? All of them.